If you’ve been paying attention to the events and activities under way this fall at the Finney County Historical Museum, you already know that we’re hosting “The Land and Future of Kansas” at 7 this evening, with a moderated panel discussion focused on a new documentary entitled “Kansas: An Eclogue” by Joshua Zev Nathan and Patrick Ross.
You probably also know that you’re welcome at noon Nov. 14 for “Self-Publishing Your Family History,” by Jay Cook, an accomplished genealogy researcher and author from here in Garden City; and that last weekend a total of 129 people converged for a book signing that featured Garden City natives Dennis R. Garcia, the author, and Ernest “Ernie” Garcia, the subject, of a compelling new University Press of Kansas biography, “Marine, Public Servant, Kansan – The Life of Ernest Garcia.”
It may be surprising, however, to learn what you might discover one floor above the museum meeting room, the site for all of these gatherings. That would be the Leola Howard Blanchard Research Library, where we’re now offering the public a significantly expanded set of resources.
Our library absorbed a collection of approximately 5,800 books and related volumes last January, and the reorganization of those items was completed just recently by Laurie Oshel, our research librarian and assistant director.
The additional collection, which tripled the Finney County Historical Society’s research holdings, came from the Finney County Genealogical Society at the request of the Finney County Public Library, which has repurposed the room where the materials were previously housed. The move was arranged between the museum, public library, library board, genealogical society and Finney County Commissioner Dave Jones.
The county covered the cost of moving and reassembling approximately 124 linear feet of shelving from the public library to the museum. Shortly afterward, more than 200 boxes containing the collection were moved across town.
Since that time, our librarian has been organizing the expanded collection on shelving that covers 36 feet of two previously open walls, plus free-standing storage that multiplied from two nine-foot rows to three rows, one stretching 18 feet and the other two extending to nearly 13 feet each.
Among the materials are Revolutionary and Civil War records, a series of historic atlases and state-by-state books on genealogy, particularly from the Eastern U.S., since many Kansas settlers came from that part of the country. There are also volumes on everything from Kansas newspapers to the history of nations in Europe and other parts of the world that sent immigrants to Kansas.
The collection includes extensive publications from the Daughters of the American Revolution, as well, along with some representative of the Sons of the American Revolution. In addition, there are numerous books with Southwest Kansas obituaries published by The Garden City Telegram and Hutchinson News, supplementing an extensive file already maintained at the museum.
A random sampling of titles includes “Township Atlas of the United States,” “Irish and Scottish Ancestry Register,” 22 successive volumes of “Passenger and Immigration List Index,” 14 volumes of the publication of “American Historical Society of Germans from Russia” and “Forgotten Patriots – African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War.”
Browsers and researchers will also find an 87-volume set of “The War of Rebellion – Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies,” along with thousands of additional resource publications.
Help and support
Reorganization took extensive time, worked around ongoing research services, because the boxed books, magazines, recordings, newsletters and other items didn’t all arrive in their original order. Volunteers assisting in the project have included Rachael Wedel, FCHS Board Member Mary Ann Bennett, Roger Oshel, Melody Oliver, Mary Pendergraft and Iliana Hernandez.
Public Library Director Pam Tuller and staff helped relocate some shelving early in the project, as well as loaning book carts. Kansas Territorial publisher Barbara Oringderff provided a $500 grant that purchased two additional book carts and a rolling stepladder needed to reach the top levels of the 7.5 foot-high shelving.
In a separate development, The Garden City Telegram donated more than 10 years’ worth of recent newspaper microfilm, bringing the museum’s collection of local newspaper microfilm fully up to date. Meanwhile, the latest addition is a signed copy of the new Garcia book.
The museum’s library is open to the public, providing information and assistance for people pursuing family, community, business, cultural, organizational or photographic history pertaining to Finney County and Southwest Kansas. The archives also serve as the historic depository for Finney County tax, school, court and census records.
With a few exceptions, museum library hours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Tuesday through Friday. Appointments may be made at (620) 272-3664, for those who want to literally open the pages of history, and walk-in requests can often be accommodated, too.
Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.